When Giving Up is Good

by | Nov 22, 2011 | Blog, Jessica Chivers, Personal Effectiveness | 0 comments

let-go-300x188‘Quitting’ is probably not something you’d expect me to talk about in glowing terms – unless of course we’re talking dirty habits – but that’s where we’re at in this month’s Flourishing Female column. (I realise I have published a book that advocates not changing one’s bed sheets too often so you may be disinclined to let me be the judge of what is and is not a ‘dirty’ habit. I love a fresh bed as much as the next woman but it’s a lot of hard work changing three or four beds every seven days isn’t it?)  Last month I wrote about perseverance and since then I’ve been to a far out full moon meditation evening which may be the cause of my desire to serve up the opposing argument – yin and yang and all that.

Being a scientist at heart and a psychology-based coach in practise I’ve been in search of evidence to support the idea that sometimes giving up on our goals is good. You don’t need to know the detail of my time on Google Scholar but suffice to say I couldn’t find one scrap of academic support for my position. Nonetheless I think there ARE times when giving up on a seemingly positive course of action is a smart move and here are four.


When you can apply yourself better elsewhere

Years ago my husband wrote a business plan and thoroughly investigated premises and suppliers to open a top end chocolate shop near where we live. It looked like a good course of action and one we could easily have got married to given our romantic notion of working together. Reality bit when we compared annual rent and rates on the shop with what Nick could earn in I.T. We decided to rubbish this plan. You might say that decision was vindicated when Hotel Chocolat opened a year later 200 metres from when our outfit would have been. Or you could say we should have persevered  and enjoyed the success that H/C has. With hindsight I’m pleased we quit.

When you’ve changed and the goal is nolonger relevant

At 22 I aspired to a double-fronted Georgian house and a yellow BMW Mini. I started saving from my first post-graduation pay packet and kept pictures on my desk to keep the goal alive. Now in my 30s and still squirreling away it’s the thought of driving a classic old red Mini Cooper that makes me smile (completely affordable but not practical with two children) and I’ve relinquished the Georgian reverie because I’ve grown-up and realised that for me and my family it’s location, location, location – not the external look of a property – that counts.

When someone else can do it better/faster/more easily/more willingly

How many times do we carry on with an effortful task because we’ve said we will or because our self-worth or professional credentials are wrapped up with it? I love having a crack at new things but will willingly pass the baton on when I realise all my effort is going into keeping me afloat rather than moving me forward. (I’m of the view that honesty and self-awareness are admirable qualities and will be seen as such by whomever I’m engaging when I want to give up). I meet a lot of people managers in my work and those that hit targets and have a glowing team around them recognise what their team can do better than themselves – and let them do it.  Perhaps there’s a drag or a drain at work or home (I’m thinking processes and tasks not people here) that someone else could pick up and run with instead of you? Think of it as development for you both.

When what you’re doing isn’t working

One well known definition of madness (an out-dated and politically incorrect term if ever there was one I grant you) is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. If what you’re doing isn’t working, you need to change your approach. Easier said than done I know but in my experience small tweaks can be massively effective in changing the outcome. Just think about the power of a smile and a touch to bring a friction-ridden relationship back into soft focus.

What’s your view on when giving up is a good idea? How do you decide? Leave a comment on the ‘blog or drop me a line in reply.

I have a large inkling that you’re an intelligent woman and don’t need me to reiterate that perseverance is probably the better strategy in life. I’m not suggesting it’s beneficial to give up just because you feel like it (that’s often the worst reason to quit) or because something is difficult (the buzz will be even bigger when you’ve accomplished it) or because the goal is taking too long (imagine life pre internet and iphone when delayed gratification was part of normal, human existence). What I’m saying is that there are times when it’s appropriate to quit and because you’re a woman of thought you’ll know when to give that some thought. 


When I’m in need of help, support and advice my first port of call are my trusted friends. I’m sure you have those people in your life. My work is slightly different to that of a friend in that I’m without prejudice and vested interest in the decisions you make. Many of my clients come to me in times of transition and I’m here for you, your colleagues and other women folk in your life when tailored 1:1 time is what any of you need.  Sometimes a single coaching experience with me makes all the difference. Do drop me a line or give me a call on 01727 856169 and we can find a time to talk, plan and work your best way through it.


In a change to the usual this month’s newsletter was not inspired by evidenced based research. In fact, it was rather the opposite.

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